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The Supreme Court won't rule on Minnesota's Sex Offender Program

SCOTUS declined to take on the case about whether MSOP is constitutional.
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The Supreme Court has declined to take on the case to decide whether Minnesota's Sex Offender Program is constitutional.

SCOTUS confirmed on Monday it will not take on Karsjens v. Piper, the case at the center of the debate over the controversial sex offender system in Minnesota.

Two years ago, District Judge Donovan Frank ruled MSOP to be unconstitutional, as sex offenders were being civilly-committed to the state's two sex offender treatment centers, in Moose Lake and St. Peter, with little hope of ever being released.

That ruling was overturned, however, by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, prompting lawyers representing a group of offenders in the program to appeal the case to SCOTUS.

Related:

Judge approves offender's release from MSOP under heavy supervision.

But now that it won't go before the Supreme Court, the likelihood is that the program will continue as it was.

Speaking to MinnPost, Mitchell Hamline College of Law professor Eric Janus says a lack of ruling from the Supreme Court means it could be a "long while" before another court decision is made on the program, "if ever."

"And that means that the status quo will continue," he added. "Some of these programs will grow."

During the debate over MSOP's constitutionality, Governor Mark Dayton has shown support for the program.

He welcomed the decision from SCOTUS in a statement Monday, but said the ruling "does not mean that we abandon our ongoing reforms, to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of all Minnesotans." 

“Last session, I proposed $18.4 million in new funding for facilities improvements and staffing to make additional improvements," he said. "I urge Legislative Leaders to join me in funding continued reforms to this program in the coming legislative session."

Why MSOP is controversial

Though it's described as a "treatment" program, only one person has been unconditionally released from MSOP centers in the program's 20-plus years of operation, out of more than 700 who have been admitted.

Those admitted to MSOP have served their prison sentences, only to be sent indefinitely into MSOP in conditions Legal Reader describes as "suspiciously prison-like."

While civil commitment programs like Minnesota's were created initially to feel more like treatment hospitals, Legal Reader says that by 2012, Minnesota's "were surrounded by wire and contained two-man cells with bunk beds.

"The patients were forced to wear handcuffs and leg irons, and visits were limited. Electronics were no longer allowed, and patients were subjected to random strip searches," it added.

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